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Morton Subotnick performing with a Buchla synthesizer, Transmediale Festival, Hebbel Theater, Berlin, February 3, 2011. Photo: Sascha Pohflepp.

Morton Subotnick

Morton Subotnick performing with a Buchla synthesizer, Transmediale Festival, Hebbel Theater, Berlin, February 3, 2011. Photo: Sascha Pohflepp.

IN THE LATE 1950s, I was living in San Francisco and struggling to find my identity as a young composer while playing clarinet part-time with the SF Symphony and SF Opera to make a living. I was commissioned to write a score for the Actor’s Workshop production of King Lear and decided to work by manipulating tape recordings. For the music cues, I transformed recorded instruments, and to create the sound for Lear’s famous storm-scene monologue, I recorded and transformed the actor’s own voice. The joy of creating and hearing everything in my studio led me to a kind of epiphany. The traditional composer, like an architect, imagines and creates a blueprint that performers must interpret in order to bring the work to life, allowing others to experience it. I realized that with the audio technology available at the time, a new kind of creative process was possible; the studio-art

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